Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday used a bit of Arabic slang that piqued the interest of Muslims on Twitter.
Biden, during cross-talk with President Trump about his taxes, said the word “inshallah,” which means “God willing.” But the word more commonly is used as a sarcastic remark to indicate a lack of faith in something will happen or not so you refer it to god, in this case, Trump releasing his tax returns. [(The phrase of Inshaallah is commonly used by Muslims, Arab Christians, and Arabic-speakers of other religions to refer to events that one hopes will happen in the future. It expresses the belief that nothing happens unless God wills it and that his will supersedes all human will)].
Because it was difficult to discern exactly what Biden was saying, many people at first wondered if the former vice president had said something else. The Biden campaign, however, confirmed to NPR that he had said “inshallah.” Biden has used the word at least once before, during a February event.
Wajahat Ali, a contributing op-ed writer at the New York Times, who, in 2016, wrote about the word for his publication, tweeted, “Saying inshallah doesn’t make you Muslim,” in reference to Biden’s use on the debate stage.
Tamar El-Ghobashy, a former Middle East correspondent at the Washington Post, said that it was “kinda colonial and derogatory if you ask me.”
Other observers were more upbeat.
Hamed Aleaziz, an immigration reporter at BuzzFeed, dubbed the moment “historic” in a viral tweet. Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for the Justice Democrats, also referred positively to the reference on Twitter.
The word also went viral in 2016, when a student was kicked off a plane after using it in a phone call.